The door wasn’t opening. She tried it again but it wouldn’t budge. The window was likewise locked.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
She jumped; she thought he was asleep. “It’s getting late. My roommate is going to start wondering where I am.” As she was talking she reached for one of the steak knives in their
block on the counter.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
“You’re not yourself right now. I’m just going home.” The knife in her hand was shaking despite her steady voice.
“Put the knife down,” he took a step closer.
She flinched and thrust the knife out instinctively, stabbing him just below his heart.
She expected him to pull back in pain and hopefully give her a chance to escape but he simply looked down at the knife then back up at her.
“I told you that wasn’t a good idea,” he pulled out the knife and threw it aside.
Her eyes widened as his wound simply closed up as if nothing had happened, “Oh my god.”
He looked down at the revulsion in her eyes. Now you hate me too. . .
Six Months Earlier
The Sapphiri Mansion’s atmosphere was especially upbeat and festive. Its occupants either danced to the flowing music or added to the chorus of conversing voices. It was a party, but not just any party. It was the evening of which the next male heir to the Sapphiri Clan would be announced. Since this was a rare occasion, even in the vampire world’s standards, there was bound to be a bit of fanfare. The main ballroom displayed the sapphire blue hues of the Sapphiri House and elegant grandeur befitting the nobility present.
The music was a low and flowing waltz. It moved its way among the dancers and pulled more couples to the floor. One of the dancing couples was Lord David Sapphiri and his wife, Olivia. They were both having a good time although their conversation leaned towards the nostalgic. After all, this evening marked the day when their sons were truly no longer children anymore.
Suddenly, Olivia laughed and rolled her eyes; breaking from the previous conversation.
Lord David gave her a quizzical look, “What’s so funny?”
Olivia motioned to where her oldest son and the Head of the Amethisti Guard stood on the other side of the ballroom.
He sighed, “You’d think those two could act like adults around each other sometimes.”
“Oh David, leave them alone. It’s not like they’re making a scene or the sorts. They’ve been like that since they were kids. I don’t think it’s going to change now.” She glanced over at the two again, “Plus, I think it’s just their way of not being awkward around each other.”
Olivia rolled her eyes, “They’ll be fine, try to enjoy the party rather than worry over every little thing. Please, for me?” If left to his own devices she knew her husband’s tendency to micro-manage would prevent him from enjoying the evening.
“Alright, but only for you,” he said teasingly but compliantly.
Across the room, the said two were both drinking from their glasses of champagne and bantering with each other. The first was a tall, blue-eyed man with a wry smile and dark black hair. He was clad in classic white and black tux; minus the overcoat he left on some chair. The second was a woman in a flowing violet dress that matched the color of her deep eyes. She was about to retort to the man’s jeer when the man’s twin sauntered up.
“You know, you guys might actually get to enjoy the party tonight if you’d quit your bickering.”
They both looked up at the new arrival.
Roxanne laughed, “Well, good evening to you too, Xavier. I am enjoying myself. As a matter of fact I’m having a nice conversation with your brother here.”
“We were just reminiscing about the time at the academy where I had come up with that brilliant plan to break into the blood vault, which I might add was foolproof,” Cort informed.
She scoffed, “Oh please, the only reason it worked is because I saved your ass.”
Xavier rolled his eyes, “This is what you call not bickering?”
“Yeah, yeah why don’t you go dance or something little brother,” Cort patted him on the back condescendingly.
A sly idea popped into Xavier’s head. He looked over at Roxanne. For a split second she looked like she had dazed off but it was quickly replaced with a smirk.
“Well actually brother, I came over to ask Roxanne if she would be so kind.” he held out his arm and motioned to the dance floor.
“Of course,” she put her glass in Cort’s empty hand and accepted Xavier’s arm, “I love this waltz.” They moved onto the dance floor leaving Cort to find his own dance partner.
Roxanne sighed once they were on the floor. They soon fell in sync with the music and other couples. After a few minutes, Xavier broke the silence.
“So, I hear your petition to incorporate firearm training into the academy is finally being put through.”
“Yes, I was down there just last month helping it get started up, but you and I both know that’s not what you want to ask me,” she laughed.
“Yeah, but I figured I’d try to work up to it a bit.”
Roxanne rolled her eyes giving him a look that said I already know what you are going to say so don’t beat around the bush.
“Well, Miss-I- know-everything, why don’t you just answer me then?”
She sighed, “What do you want me to say? That I think we can work it out? You and I both know that it’s not going to happen. I don’t– We don’t care about each other the same way.”
“I know it’s just… Oh, I don’t know. I had just hoped that it would have worked out by now.”
“It is ‘worked out’.”
“Mmuhum, that’s why there is always tension between you two and why you can never be around each other without ragging on each other, and why you always avoid this subject, and–”
She cut him off, “Yeah this is rich coming from someone who’s only had a girlfriend for a couple of years. You’re not in the position to be giving out relationship advice just yet; especially when it comes to me and your brother. Why don’t we take your own advice and enjoy the evening,” she finished with a pointed smile.
Xavier knew this smile. She had closed the subject and wasn’t going to hear anymore of it,
“Fine, have it your way.”
They continued to dance and chatter about other things.
When the song ended Xavier led Roxanne off the floor and thanked her for the dance.
“You’ve certainly gotten better, I don’t have any broken toes,” he said with a smirk.
“Hey, I Haven’t injured anyone dancing in years.”
“I know but it’s still funny to bring up.” Before she could retort he continued, “Anyways,
I’m going to find Natalia for the next number.”
A fast-paced tango was starting and Roxanne rolled her eyes. “Try to keep your hands where they belong. You’re at a formal event.”
“Yeah, I know,” he said dismissively and walked off to find his girlfriend.
Roxanne smiled to herself and then started for the table where the blood wine was displayed. She wasn’t particularly hungry but the wine was mixed with just enough blood to make the appetizer a perfect snack. She selected a glass from the group behind the sign written A Positive in delicate blue calligraphy.
“A Positive? I would have thought you’d try out the O Negative,” Cort’s voice materialized behind her and he reached for a glass of the said type.
“What are you following me now?”
“Can’t a guy simply get something to eat without behind harassed for ulterior motives?”
“Oh, I’m harassing you now am I? Who was here first?”
“I was on my way over here anyways, you just happened to be here too.”
“Whatever you say,” she replied a little too passively.
A semi-awkward silence passed between them. Cort watched his brother and Natalia on the dance floor as they wove in and out with other couples. He glanced at Roxanne who was sipping on her blood wine indifferently. He was about to look away when she looked up and caught him looking at her. For just a split second he thought he caught a flash of embarrassment in her eyes as if she had been the one caught glancing at him but it was gone so fast he was sure he had imagined it.
“Um, so,” she brushed at one of her brown curls that had fallen out of place, “Julia did a great job with the decorations tonight. The place looks amazing.”
“Yeah, it really does . . .”
She drank the last of her glass with a gulp and set it down on the table to be collected by an attendant. “Well I’m going to head over to speak with Seth about loosening up a bit; it’s a party after all.”
He stopped her before she could walk off, “Wait . . .”
She looked up at him questioningly.
“Ok, you’re right I sis have a bit of an ulterior motive. I wanted to ask you for a dance.”
She hesitated, “I don’t know of that’s such a good idea, Cort.”
“It’s a party Roxanne. One dance . . . please?” he held her gaze trying to decipher the neutral mask she always threw up when trying to make a decision. Finally she agreed.
Taking his offered hand she followed him to the floor.
It was right in the middle of a medium paced song and Cort expertly lead them to flow into the already moving couples. For a little while they just danced not saying anything to each other. Finally Cort broke the silence.
“You know it’s funny to think that at one time you couldn’t dance to save your life.”
“Ugh, not you too.”
“What?” he asked confused.
“Your brother commented something similar earlier. Really, I know dancing isn’t my forte but I got it down.”
“Just took you what, a hundred years?” he laughed.
“Shut-up,” she bit back knowing that he hadn’t overestimated.
“Hey, I’m just glad to know my hours of practice and sore toes paid off.”
“You can’t take all the credit.”
“True but I’m the one who had to deal with you when you were really bad.”
She rolled her purple eyes. In their banter she forgot to concentrate which resulted in a hiss of pain from Cort and they accidentally messed up another couple dancing next to them. The woman, a noble from the Adamantis House judging by her diamond studded gown, glanced over with annoyance but dropped it in surprise when she saw who it was. She apologized graciously to Cort but gave Roxanne a parting look of disdain.
When the momentum of the dance moved them away Cort could barely hold back the swell of laughter rising in his chest. Roxanne glared at him; if she had been human her face would have been bright red in embarrassment.
“It’s not funny.”
“No, not at all,” he replied evenly despite the smirk-like grin on his face. “I guess we’re going to have to find some time to practice some more,” he chuckled but then stopped when he saw she wasn’t smiling anymore. The song was ending and they swayed to a stop. While the other couples applauded the symphony he looked down at her through the neutral mask she had thrown up again. Her wide shoulders were tense and she shifted on her right foot uncomfortably.
“What? What did I say?” he asked urgently.
Her thin eyebrows, slightly darker than the rest of her already dark brown hair, knitted together and she looked up from the white button on his shirt she’d been focusing on to meet his searching blue gaze. Another song, a slow one, was beginning around them but neither of them noticed.
She couldn’t help the slight waver in her voice when she finally spoke, “Cort, after tonight things are going to be different . . . you’re going to be the heir to the Sapphiri House and I’m–”
He cut her off, “I don’t see why that matters.”
“It does and you know it.”
“That doesn’t mean we can’t remain friends. We’ve known each other since we were kids.”
“We both know ‘friends’ doesn’t exactly entail our relationship.” She sighed, “I have responsibilities that go along with my position as Head of the Amethisti Guard and after tonight your obligation is as Lord Sapphiri. As much as I’d like to keep things the same . . .” she trailed off and didn’t have to finish for him to put two and two together.
. . . but things can never be the same.
She looked away. If he didn’t know her better he’d say that she was on the verge of tears. However he knew it took a lot more than an awkward conversation to make her cry.
Around them the melody was weaving in and out of the slow dancing couples. Thankfully they had stopped near the middle of the dance floor and the other dancers had adjusted around them. It was a slow elegant dance, one that Cort recognized as one they had danced before; back when things were allot less complicated between them.
“I should go,” she broke him out of his retrospective trance and she tried to walk away.
He stopped her, “Wait.” Then doing something he hadn’t done in many years he reached out and touched her mind telepathically; not deeply but just enough to hear what he projected and the honest sincerity behind it.
Then dance this last dance with me.
She recoiled at first, throwing up a smoke screen to evade any further access to her mind but when he remain on the outskirts just leaving the thought, infused with all the finality of the request, she relaxed slightly and agreed.
Retaking her hand he started them back into a slow swaying rhythm. She replaced her hand lightly on his slim shoulder and relaxed further. Cort didn’t withdraw his mind but let it linger quietly on the surface of hers. They didn’t think or say anything; instead rested and meditated on the ironic formality of it all. Roxanne who had already contemplated and decided on this was serenely blank. For Cort however it was still a little raw.
Instead of blending back in with the other dancers Cort kept them spinning in a slow swaying circle not three feet wide. Their embrace wasn’t romantic but it wasn’t exactly platonic either. It was closer to that of ex-lovers whose initial friendship had survived despite the odds, which was ironically a close a statement as ever.
When the song ended they pulled away, both physically and telepathically. Even though they had only brushed the surface of each other’s minds, words now seemed like a crude form of communication. Roxanne looked up and noticed, like she always did, the darker blue flecks in his eyes. She took a deep breath and quirked a half-rueful smile. The gesture tugged at the corner of his own mouth and he knew what she meant:
See ya around . . . thing have changed but I’ll still see ya around.
Cort inclined his head, indicating he understood. Bringing her hand up, he placed a very light kiss on her pale knuckles, a sign or affection and respect, and then walked the dance floor. When he turned back to look she was likewise going in the opposite direction.
Despite the pit of longing in his stomach, he felt almost relieved at the situation. He couldn’t change what was going to change between them after tonight but he felt like this was adequate closure. Turning again, he resolved himself to enjoy the rest of the evening.
The party continued to unfold into the night and everyone, even Cort, was enjoying themselves. When it came time to begin with the main reason of the occasion, Lady Islya Sapphiri called for everyone’s attention.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, as Heads of the Sapphiri House we would like to extend our thanks for joining us on this special occasion and a special thanks to our friends from the around the Twelve Houses.” Everyone looked to the front of the room where Lady Islya and her co-head, Lord David, stood a midst the stunning blue chandeliers and black ribbon that adorned the stage.
Lord Sapphiri continued where she had left off, “As you all are well aware, we have invited you here this night to announce who we have decided who will take the place of male heir to the Sapphiri House.” He motioned for both Cort and Xavier to join him. When they did, he put a hand on each of their shoulders. “As a father, it was no easy task to choose between you two. As I’ve watched you grow up from children, to rebellious teens, into the men I know today, I’m proud to be your father; even if I still sometimes have trouble telling you apart.” The crowd collectively chuckled.
Olivia began when the room quieted down again, “I want to let you two know that I’m so proud of both of you as well,” she kissed and hugged both of them to their barley concealed embarrassment. A resounding “Momma” came from both of the twins. The crowd laughed again.
Lady Islya echoed her own praise to the boys and states how she looked forward to the day when he own daughter Julia was to work beside them as the next generation of the Sapphiri.
Lord David cleared his throat, “Well, that being said I should not keep the suspense going any longer.”
He and Lady Islya spoke together, “As Co-Heads of the Sapphiri House we have decided to name Xavier as Male Heir to the Sapphiri House.”
While watching from the crowd, Roxanne all of the sudden collapsed.